Air Raid Precautions

The Blitz

7 September 1940 - 10 May 1941

On September 7, 1940, the commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe (German air force), Hermann Göring, launched a huge daylight raid on the East End of London which left 430 dead, over 1 600 seriously injured, and thousands more homeless. Thereafter his bombers returned to London on 76 consecutive nights, save for the 2nd November.
Bombs poured down on the dock areas of West Ham and Bermondsey, and on adjoining Poplar, Shoreditch, Whitechapel and Stepney. Thousands of tonnes of bombs had been dropped and the fires that raged were greater than the Great Fire of 1666.
Birmingham was raided in October and on the 14th November the whole of the centre of Coventry was totally devastated. The effects of such devastation on an area so much smaller than London was much worse, it seemed as if the whole of Coventry had been put out of action.
More raids followed on Birmingham, Southampton, Manchester, Sheffield, Portsmouth and Leicester.
The raids on London broadened to cover the West End and the suburbs. There were daytime raids as well.
On the 29th December, 1940 came the infamous attack on the City of London, when the Thames was at low ebb so that there was a great shortage of water.
The heaviest raids of all took place throughout the spring of 1941. London suffered heavy bombing, as did the west Midlands, including Coventry again, Merseyside and Clydeside. Almost every house in the shipbuilding town of Clydebank was damaged.
The London Blitz finally ended with an extremely heavy raid on May 10, 1941. Almost 1 500 people were killed, the House of Commons was severely damaged, and over 2 000 fires raged over a wide area of the capital. In the following weeks smaller attacks continued on London and other cities, but by the early summer of 1941 the vast majority of the Luftwaffe's striking power had been redeployed in Eastern Europe prior to the launching of Operation Barbarossa, Adolf Hitler's planned surprise attack on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Blitz was finally over.
London had been subject to 71 separate raids receiving over 18 000 tonnes of high explosive - more than the rest of the country put together.
Further bombing raids took place throughout the rest of the war. Kingston upon Hull suffered some of Britain's heaviest wartime bombing. Herbert Morrison, the wartime Home Secretary, said he thought it was the most heavily bombed City in Britain. The 'Baedeker Raids' against historic and beautiful cities such as Bath and York in 1942, and the V1 and V2 rocket campaigns of the latter war years kept the civil defence services on alert almost to the end of the war in Europe, but nothing approached the intensity, horror and devastation of the London Blitz.
Postcards of the bomb damage in central London, from the series "London Under Fire" issued during the war years, can be viewed here.
The final toll of casualties was 60 595 killed, (29 890 in London), and 86 182 admitted to hospital (50 507 in London).


Copyright © 2002 Peter N. Risbey.